eCommerce Checkout UX That Boosts Sales and Conversions ( 4 CRO Tests You Can Copy)

Want some quick wins for your eCommerce store’s CRO campaigns?

Make changes to the checkout UX and you’ll see results quicker than changing any other part of your store.

Why? Because this is the bottom of the funnel. The place where customers have high motivation to buy. And when you make small changes to the page, it can mean big gains or losses. That’s why at Convertica when we start a new optimization campaign, the checkout UX and flow is one of the first things we work on.

So what is a good checkout conversion rate? The average rate is 24.4%. But if you’re looking for a benchmark for your store, you should also look at the average checkout conversion rate for each industry. For example, the cart to checkout rate in the fashion industry is 30.9%, but in the finance sector, it’s only 19.6%. (source)

Now that you have a benchmark, the next question is: how should you optimize your checkout page? Which elements should you change to increase conversions?

My high-level answer is this: Go back to the basics on optimizing user experience. That is, make the process as easy for customers as possible. Pave a smooth road for them right up to the moment they click Pay.

This is, however, easier said than done. That’s why today, we’re going to look at case studies that you can refer to next time you try to improve the UX/UI of your store’s checkout page.

eCommerce checkout UX best practices: 4 case studies you can learn from

Think of your customer at checkout as that buyer in a hurry in a brick-and-mortar store.

He’s got a couple of items in his hands. Exact cash at the ready. And he’s itching to dash out of the store as quickly as possible.

He has no time to fuss. He just wants to pay and get it all over with. That’s usually easy to do offline.

But how can you recreate this experience online? You can’t just get his money. Before you can do that, there are many things you require from him first: his name, billing & delivery addresses, credit card number —among other things.

So the question is: how can you simplify the process so that the buyer can quickly finish the transaction?

It’s not easy. But you can study the experiences of others to glean insights into what you can do to smoothen the checkout process.

Here’s what four eCommerce store owners did to optimize theirs which led to large increases in profit for their businesses.

  1. Changed the error message of declined credit cards and recouped 30% of abandonments
  2. Reduced friction at checkout and halved abandonment rate
  3. Added guest checkouts for an extra 300 million dollars
  4. Optimized checkout flow & increased conversions by 11%

Buckle up. Let’s get into the details of each of these optimization tests.

I. Baymard changed the error message of declined credit cards and decreased cart abandonment rate

Imagine this. You’re ready to pay. You add in your credit card number. And it gets declined.

There could be a whole host of reasons why. But what do you do? If you really want the item, you might try another card. But if you’re that buyer in a hurry, you’ll quickly get frustrated. Decide you don’t want the item anyway. And abandon the cart.

In this first case study, Baymard Institute salvaged 30% of the customers whose cards got declined by changing the error instructions. That’s right. Simply changing the error message inspired more people to complete the checkout process.

Here’s the thing. Declined credit cards is one of those annoying things that will plague you as an eCommerce store owner. Why? You have no control over it. The card isn’t declined just because the buyer put in the wrong number. The bank provider declined it. And they don’t tell you why. So as an eCommerce store owner, you can’t even tell the buyer why the credit card was declined in the first place.

But this Baymard Institute study shows us that you’ve got a way to appease your frustrated buyer. All you have to do is optimize the error message by telling the buyer they have another payment option.

By adding the simple sentence: “Tip: You may try another credit card or pay with paypal“, Baymard recouped 30% of sales at this stage of the checkout process.

Takeaway: Look at the message you currently use for declined credit cards in your eCommerce stores. Do you explicitly say that there is another way to pay? Also, if you don’t offer an alternative payment yet, you should consider it. This won’t only decrease cart abandonment but it will also protect your store should any problem occur with your primary payment provider.

II. Asos reduced friction at checkout and halved abandonment rate

Friction is the buyer’s psychological resistance to any given element on your website. It’s inevitable online. Your job is to reduce it as much as possible.

And nowhere is this job more needed than at checkout. That’s what Asos found out in an optimization campaign where they optimized their checkout pages by reducing different friction points. Here are some of the changes they made:

  • They enclosed the checkout process. They got rid of any distractions at checkout. They made sure that the buyer only had one thing in mind at this point. That is to finish the process and pay.
  • They showed security symbols. This boosts trust and credibility.
  • They added a progress indicator. This signals to the buyer where they are in the process and how many more steps they have to complete.
  • They provided two ways to add a billing address –manual and automatic postcode lookup. This is because they’ve found that often there are addresses that automatic lookup can’t properly find.
  • They allowed buyers to click back without losing security messages or important information. This helps in decreasing user frustration.

Takeaway: Friction is a big conversion killer. Look at your checkout page and see which elements may be stopping customers from completing the checkout process. Then implement the UX/UI changes needed to reduce friction. This is a process that needs continuous testing but as you do it, you’ll find that you understand your buyers more and with that comes an increase in conversion rates, too. Here’s our blog post on how to increase cart abandonment rate if you want to know more about how to reduce friction points in your checkout pages.

III. Jared Spool changed the checkout form of an eCommerce store he was testing for an extra 300 million dollars in revenue within a year 

This sounds like one of those clickbait headlines. But that’s exactly what happened in one of Jared Spool’s campaigns for a major eCommerce store.

What change did he make?

It was a simple change in the checkout form. The form was one that buyers filled out before they could pay. You know the one I’m talking about. The one where you’re asked to either login or register before paying. Turns out buyers have a big problem with this.

Here’s what Jared Spool says about this:

“The problem wasn’t as much about the form’s layout as it was where the form lived. Users would encounter it after they filled their shopping cart with products they wanted to purchase and pressed the Checkout button. It came before they could actually enter the information to pay for the product.”

Here’s the problem. While store owners may think that buyers don’t mind this simple and easy task, it’s actually a big friction point. See. Buyers don’t want a relationship with you. They just want to pay.

Remember what I said about the buyer in a hurry? That’s exactly what’s at play here. And asking them to login or register before they’ve even entered their payment information was stopping many of them from checking out altogether.

So what did the UX designers do? Here’s what Spool says:

“They took away the Register button. In its place, they put a Continue button with a simple message: “You do not need to create an account to make purchases on our site. Simply click Continue to proceed to checkout. To make your future purchases even faster, you can create an account during checkout.”

That simple change in the checkout flow and messaging increased the number of buyers by 45%. And for the big eCommerce store he was working with, this resulted in an extra $300,000,000 that first year.

Takeaway: Conversion rate optimization doesn’t have to be so complicated. Even small changes in your checkout process can mean big gains in your revenue. Investigate the checkout flow in your eCommerce store. Look at every single element. And figure out what things you can change that will make the buyer’s experience easier and smoother.

IV. Graph Digital optimized checkout flow and increased conversions by 11%

Optimizing the checkout page is what a lot of UX designers start when starting a CRO campaign. But another cause of friction is the checkout flow. How does your customer move from adding products to cart to completing the whole process?

For many stores, this is often a long process with lots of steps to go through. And with many forms to fill in. The more work a customer has to do, the more likely he’s not going to convert. That can only lead to low conversions.

That’s why when Graph Digital optimized Graham & Brown’s checkout pages, this was one of the elements they looked at. That’s because their initial observations amplified some glaring friction points. These were:

  1. The checkout screen was a primary barrier to paying.
  2. The checkout pages had a poor layout that was not user-friendly
  3. The form input did not validate anything until after the buyer clicked submit

Knowing these three things, they proceeded to make some changes. Their goal was to make checkout as streamlined as possible.

First, they reduced the checkout process to only one page. They cleaned up the design, used inline form validation and eliminated any element that wasn’t important. They also made it easy for buyers to move between steps. And to edit information without going through a lot of hoops.

Doing all these changes made the customer journey much easier. Remember what I said about the buyer in a hurry? That’s exactly what they did. They looked at their process and made changes to it so that the hurried buyer can swiftly go from one step to the next without any hassles. Or unnecessary work.

And by thinking about the customer, they increased checkout conversions by 11%.

Takeaway: Give your checkout page a closer look. Go through it as if you were a customer. Is there anything that slows you down or stops you from completing the process? If there’s even one element that’s making the buying experience less than optimal, then get rid of it. Or change it. Remember, customers here are so close to buying. Get out of the way and just let them buy.

V. Recap

You can’t convert all the people who add products to their cart. Some of them may have had no intention of buying in the first place. But there are cases when people who have the intent to buy, leave and abandon the cart because the checkout process is making them work too hard. These are the buyers you want to reach and keep in your ecosystem.

The good news is that there’s something you can do about it. Examine these case studies and compare them with the checkout UX in your eCommerce store. Then test them and see how that affects conversion rates.

All these tests may take time but once you find something that works, you know you’ve hit the jackpot. And whatever conversion gains you make will continue to benefit your business for many years to come.

Author: Kurt Philip


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Hi, I’m Kurt Philip, the founder & CEO of Convertica. I live and breathe conversion rate optimization. I hope you enjoy our findings.

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